The bright psychedelia of “Sleeve,” the opening track of Edie Brickell & New Bohemians’ new album, whirls in a circling, spinning dance as the song rockets off on Brandon Aly’s skittering snare shots, floats along Matt Hubbard’s organ and synth, and is propelled by Kenny Withrow’s cascading rhythm guitar and his piercing leads. A synesthesia for the soul, “Sleeve” celebrates the beauty of the tattoo and the heart’s and body’s desire to add just one more. The jangly drive of “Sleeve” rocks us into the energy and beauty of the rest of the band’s fifth studio album and its first since 2018’s Rocket.
Brickell breathlessly utters the lyrics with a fervid passion as the band funks it up with a Prince-like vibe on “Don’t Get in the Bed Dirty,” a tongue-in-cheek nod to sex with the one you love, whether yourself or another. The genius of the writing showcases a playfulness and humor that urges us to embrace the multilayered meanings of words and phrases and stories. “Stubborn Love” rides in on Rhodes piano phrases from Steely Dan’s “King of the World,” emitting dazzling jazz vibes that flow underneath lyrics that depict the ragged ways we fall in and out of love: “Some people see it coming / But instead of running / They step in the path of a hurricane / Stubborn love / Hard-headed woman.”
Spacious acoustic guitar picking provides the bed for the airy ballad “Rough Beginnings,” whose minor chords at once reflect the theme of the song — “she came from rough beginnings” — and belie the joy in a person’s having transcended difficulties to create a new identity. The jaunty and propulsive “Tripwire” scampers quickly along, a kind of musical interlude halfway through the album. The galloping rocker “Horse’s Mouth” warns against the dangers of malicious gossip, while the shimmeringly gorgeous “I Found You” recalls the glowing musical mystique of Fleetwood Mac’s Bare Trees and Fairport Convention. The album closes with the straight-ahead rocker, “My Power,” with echoes of Lou Reed, an anthem of self-affirmation.
Hunter and the Dog Star is a multi-textured musical journey offering us a view of Edie Brickell & New Bohemians’ rich lyrical and musical ingenuity.